Identity Thief

 Thousands of pieces strewn out on an even plain

Just waiting to be connected in their proper place; a race

To complete the big picture while trying to remain sane.

Everything is in front of me, every part of me right in my face

As I start to outline the perimeter, chasing those I know to be straight.

It has never been so difficult and I am losing sleep in the process

Of trying to connect portions of life, attempting to link disjointed days

That turn into months of confusion, strife, and a heap of stress.

The principles of faith that I have grown to know and love seem so far

From the reality that is my world today and raising questions of both why and

Why not; am I to believe the truth of what was taught despite the facts

That I’ve got in my ever-changing plot?

When I think I find the pieces that fit, the border starts to curve and

I realize they are not it.  Every bit of progress I thought I would get leads me

Two steps backwards into every wall I hit.  All the right that I have done

In my mind is for naught; thinking about the education, volunteer work, and

Service to the ministry all has me distraught; however, I know I didn’t do it

Because it was a payoff I sought…but that would be nice.

In a daze I question who I am and what it all means as I pick up each piece to a

Puzzle that remains the remnants of shattered hopes and dreams.

I used to be so sure and confident in me that others would see and believe

Cockiness was the recipe, that is, until they learned how I was going to be.

Now I cannot find that guy and I have nowhere else to look; some dirty crook

Has stolen the view that was so clear amongst the haze and malaise that used to

Not even begin to phase my gaze.

I’m staring at a thousand pieces of my soul; no longer feeling in control of the

Direction I go in pursuit of the complete and finished image of my reflection

As a whole.  No clear place to turn and no clear vision to see,

Edges connected with no filler and piles of mystery consume my space

In the struggle to gain my place in the world around me.

My faith used to be so strong…until something or someone stole my identity.

God, do you still hear me?

Where is Your Bible?

Based on II Timothy 2:15

THIS is my bible…

I am what it says that I am between the well-worn borders
Of these leather bounds.
It describes me to the nth degree on the tattered pages inside
As I obey and abide by the words written by God through
The hands of His scribes as He dictated His mind for all of
Us to read; now I take heed and believe the totality of
Everything He has in store for me.

This IS my bible…

Not was, but IS my bible;
Right now its words are for me, not just documents from
A distant past that used to be. It is my meat and substance
That fills me daily beyond anything that my limited
Imagination can even begin to see.
The printed, potent, poignant, pointed, powerful, precious,
Promising, passionate, providing, protecting, principled,
Penetrating, preferred, progressive, positive, and perfecting
Presenter of my purpose decrees that I am above all
The rest with no fee attached, but rather given to me for free
By the grace of my God Almighty.

This is MY bible…

I can do exactly what it says that I can do and it is the director of
My destiny. I can be exactly what it says that I can be, and in
Fact every promise from the Old and the New was fulfilled
By Jesus and is for me! You cannot have what is mine from
What I have sown, oh no, you gotta go get your own! The
Promises and purpose for my life may just be mine and for
You maybe to dine off of what is left when I’m done on my time;
That’s fine if all you want is a negligible nugget and only the
Crest of what is really yours. Open your own eyes to the prize that
Will enable you to rise to where your own potential lies.

This is my BIBLE

It is the everlasting Word of the only true and living God!
Its infallible nature allows me to believe every sentence written
Within, without hesitation, because I see the manifestation
In my life though the duration, of time…
There is no more condemnation for me in Him while He is
Designing my designation and being the source of the creation
Of my faith that I have been ordained to come into the
Realization of, with supernatural results as my confirmation.
The Beliefs and Instructions that Birth new Life in me Everyday
Is what I know it to be, giving little ol’ me the strength through
Him to make the enemy flee and keep my mind perfectly at ease
And peace. It is controlling my body and commanding my soul
To reach His goals for my life in this role that I am in as a
Voice to people on the planet as a whole…


Don’t you see that now?
It is the most important and only collection of books by which
We are to pledge and solemnly vow until such a time when
Every knee will have to proclaim and bow, when God will
Allow us to enter into His glory and magnificent light.
My plight is certain and sure, but what about yours?
Have you taken hold to your bible as your life line or has
It sat around collecting dust over time and you’re missing out
On the great finds inside while I am getting mine?
My friends, this Word is the only way to get what you really
Need in this life throughout all the strife, trials, and
Tribulations that will come. I can tell you this one thing,
If you really grab hold to it, you will never have to go
Back from where you’ve come from.

Will you get yours?

We Live in One World

“The maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”  That is how Webster defines the word justice for us in his dictionary, but what does it really mean?  It is the basic idea that our legal system is based on, but seemingly few understand it.  The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the high-profile murder trial and the massive outpouring of social response opened my eyes to this idea even more.  Many seemed stunned by the not guilty verdict and looked to any social media outlet they could to express their displeasure.  I too was disheartened by the trial, but perhaps not for the same reasons as many of those I saw on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Ask.fm, Mobli, etc.

The trial was to be a difficult one from the start.  The fact is, there was no key witness to the incident.  No one to put a face to words.  No one to put a timeline to actions.  No one to tie up the loose ends.  So it was up to the state prosecution team to use the circumstantial evidence they had to piece together a case.  In the opinion of many (to include my own) they fell short of the type of job they should have done, but let me be clear in saying that our judicial system places a standard on them that is difficult at best.  The idea of “beyond a reasonable doubt” causes havoc when it is tied into what justice is.  Justice demands that we maintain or administer what is reasonable by impartially finding truth in conflicting stories or passing out due judgments.  In retrospect, the jury had to be convinced by the state that murder or manslaughter was a reasonable conclusion beyond the doubt of any reasonable human being.  I bet many thought it wasn’t that difficult of a decision, but when you look at it that way, one can understand the challenge the prosecution had to prove that in this and many other situations.

People will not like this blog, I get that, especially when I say that this jury’s decision and the crux of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman situation was not racially based.  The system places strict guidelines on what must be proven and anyone that was paying any attention to the case at all knew that it was at least questionable if that was satisfied.  Yet, any reacted with shock and awe, choosing to categorize this as a racially charged offense.  Self-proclaimed leader Al Sharpton announced a 100-city “Justice for Trayvon” day and a “social movement for justice.”  Jesse Jackson categorized Florida as an “apartheid state” and blamed the jurors own “cultural biases” for their decision.  He used this case to argue for the freedom of Marissa Alexander, who was jailed when she fell on the other side of the “stand your ground” law in Florida than Zimmerman did for firing a warning shot near an abusive husband.  The idea of using this to declare and apartheid in Florida is ridiculous at best.  Apartheid was a set of components of segregation that involved the systematic discrimination of people of color in terms of economics, law, and politics.  This was not…

Trayvon Martin’s death was a travesty, there is no doubt.  I even took a picture of myself in a hoodie when it happened.  I am not Trayvon, but I very well could have been.  My appearance has more than one time been misinterpreted to be something it was not.  As recently as two weeks ago, I was branded a “thug” simply because of my hat being turned to the side and having not shaved in a week.  In all of our hearts, we know that Zimmerman was guilty of something, whether it could be proven or not.  A not guilty verdict, contrary to popular belief, does not proclaim innocence, but rather not “proven” to be guilty of a certain crime.  Florida’s law regarding standing your ground leaves far too much leeway.  For once here in Michigan, we got the law right (to a degree) with guns making it necessary that we retreat unless it is unsafe to do so when outside the home.  The Michigan law provides legal protection to people who use deadly force when then they “honestly and reasonably” believe they or another person are being threatened with death, severe injury or rape only.  It affirms, however; the fact that we should not be looking for confrontation with guns, using them as weapons, but rather using them only as tools of last resort (or for hunting animals of course).

I wonder as a people why we see only certain things as travesties or things worth marching in protest about.  In this city of Flint, we just had two triple homicides in recent weeks.  No marches.  In Chicago, youth are being killed at an alarming rate.  No marches.  We proclaim the plight of the Americans of African descent, but seemingly not when they are killing themselves.  The saddest thing about Trayvon’s death to me is the loss of his potential.  We have no idea what he could have grown up to be.  Maybe he would have been a doctor, lawyer, inventor, president, athlete, entertainer, minister, teacher, or any other productive profession you can think of.  However, as a person who works with inner city youth as a coach and minister, I see this same loss of potential everyday with no one screaming about apartheid.  Parents are abandoning kids and leaving them to raise themselves.  I cannot tell you how many kids I take all over the state and other nearby states that parents never even take the time to find out who I am.  They are more than happy with having these boys out of their hair for a while.  What happens when they leave the confines and structure of practices and games, well too often they find it in the cold hierarchy of the street.

Further, how many future members of society have we loss in choosing to kill them before they ever had a chance?  Pro-choice vs. Pro-life is a pseudo argument.  The fact is that there is always a choice.  God designed it that way.  Adam and Eve had a choice to choose life as do we.  But so often we have chosen to terminate.  We blame others, when we do a far better job of taking ourselves out by comparison.  In 2007 alone, the rate of abortions among American women of African descent ages 15-44 was 3.5 times more than their European counterparts despite accounting for 5 times less of the population of women in that same age bracket.  4.8% of all babies conceived in that age group and cultural class were aborted.  How many of them were doctors, lawyers, inventors, etc.?  This is not apartheid, not at all, but rather genocide.  No marches.  What about Tonya Reaves, who was killed by a botched abortion in Chicago on July 20, 2012 at a Planned Parenthood clinic.  Not even a mention from presidential candidates during the election process that year, despite it being from the incumbent’s home town.  No marches for the thousands that go unreported.  No 100-day themes or fancy catch phrases for them, no marches….none.

Let me be clear here, the killing of Trayvon Martin was a huge problem in this country.  An even bigger problem is our reluctance to get out and do something about the problems in this country BEFORE they become high-profile.  How many are working with at-risk youth?  How many are investing their time in the educational process of our young people?  How many are volunteering to mentor and guide?  Or does volunteering not pay enough?  Does it not bring enough media attention?  I posted a picture of a pro-Zimmerman sign at a local business and my Twitter page blew up.  I post pictures, videos, stories, etc. of my non-profit basketball club that helps many kids and I get a few responses.  Another club named after a famous basketball player that may do less will get national attention because of the high-profile of the player.  Point is, as a people we largely gravitate to what brings the most pats on the back, high fives, or “at-a-boys.”  Do we really want to affect change or just be a part of the next movement to “turn up” society?  How about we turn up at church, school, and home?

Ironically, I found inspiration from the strangest of sources.  The day of the Martin/Zimmerman verdict I was watching an episode of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” circa 1974.  I realized that whatever people think of Bill Cosby now, he was way ahead of his time in trying to foster education, understanding, and peace.  At the end of each episode at that time, the guys performed a song as the junkyard band based on the theme of the show.  This one just happened to be on race relations as they learned to depend on each other during the episode at a boys’ summer camp.  The song is what got my attention though.  It is the thought that if we could just grasp to it could change the world.  The song said, “…we live in one world, and this is the place.  We are one people, the human race…”  This came in a time where this country was embroiled in racial confrontation, but yet these thoughts emerged.  How much more now should we be able to embrace the idea?  We continue to let melanin in only the top layer of our skin determine our thoughts.  We continue to think of ourselves as polar opposites.  Until we don’t, it will only get worse.

Here We Go Again…the Degradation of Officiating and Coaching in AAU (travel hoop) is Alarming

 clueless referee bad coach

I hesitated to compose this blog post because of the fact some may take it the wrong way who I certainly don’t want to.  Then I realized that is the with most everything I post so it is what it is.  This may piggyback from my post regarding an AAU parent two years back calling me “boy” and the events that ensued.  It again involves a tournament my team was participating in but this time a bit different.  I do want to say that for the most part, The Strom Classic tournament is organized and well run.  The staff has done a great job in the past…this year was a bit different, and hopefully just an aberration.

Last year at this time, my Mid Michigan Lakers U17 team was busy beating the likes of I-90 Elite, Northern Exposure, etc. en route to a second place finish in the platinum bracket in after a battle with the West Michigan Lakers.  We lost our second best player for the summer in the tournament, Markell Lucas, to an Achilles tear as well.  From that perspective, you would think that this year we would at least have a game in the main facility which would have the access to the most college coaches; nope, not one.  Seems a little disrespectful to the achievements of last year, right?  Or maybe that’s just me thinking too much.  Anyway, that is not even why I wrote this so let me work my way to the point…

After playing our third game of the tournament, we were 2-1 and in the final eight of the silver bracket (don’t get me started how we got to silver with only one loss by 6 points to a well-respected team).  We hurried over to Davenport University for our next game, but found it to be an hour behind schedule (unusual for big tournaments, especially with NO communication from a director).  Oh well, you adjust and move on.  At the start of the game, I recognized one of the officials from last year.  I knew then it would be a long night and it started right away.  When I questioned him on a series of weird calls, he told me to “move on”.  It was clear to me that he had not though.  Then inexplicably, the other official was replaced mid way through the first half by a guy who must have thought folks were there to see him.  We have played through awful officiating before (I mean just the week prior in Mt. Pleasant a ref told me that it was perfectly legal to block a shot AFTER it hit the backboard), so we play on.  Oh yeah, right here I should mention that we were playing the MPBA Elite team led by a guy (“Coach” Lee I believe) that used to be with Common Bond.  They jumped out to an early lead, then we fought back within two points at the half.  About there is where things got interesting…

After the half, the game was back and forth.  My best player, Amariontez Ivory-Thomas (Tez), did what any coach would want his best to do.  That is, lead by example and took a charge (or so we thought).  Despite a player crashing through him, there was no call.  No charge, no block.  Now there had been several already in the game so we thought a baseline was established.  Nothing but a blow to the head for Tez who was attempting to shake it off after picking himself up off of the floor.  While down, do you think the officials checked to see if he was ok? No.  But the site director decided to get the “trainer” (I really don’t know who she was) to come out and look at him which was the right call in my book.  We play on and she walks over, talks to him for a couple of minutes, then walks away.  I have to ask him what she said and he tells me she said to sit a few minutes and then he was good.  So, I put him back into the contest.  About a minute later, the director comes onto the court and stops the game saying that I have to take him out and he can’t play. 

Me: What?  Why not?

Him:  She said he can’t play

Me:  Why didn’t she tell me?  The coach?  You know, the one responsible for him?

Him:  Well I’m telling you.  He said he had a headache so she said that could be a sign of a concussion.

Me:  So could a lot of other things, but what kind of concussion tests take two minutes?

Him:  I don’t know…he can’t play.

Me:  This is ridiculous!

So, I am left without my best player for saying his head hurt after getting elbowed in it.  Whose head wouldn’t hurt?  I am one the most concerned people about concussions so if there was a need for precaution, why not tell me so that he could be evaluated at a medical facility?  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my second best player (and other “big” man) was given a rash of fouls simultaneously.  Unfair?  Maybe, but that is the life of a coach so we play on.  I tell my team to just take the game from the opponents and the officials and they begin to do just that. But that’s when the real issue behind this post happened;

A controversial foul call in our favor prompted the opposing team to react to the refs.  I said aloud that “we finally got one and I know they aint complaining.”  That’s when this clown of a coach turns and yells at me to shut up.  Um, excuse me?  You said what?  I proceeded to walk over to that coach so he could properly say that in my face, which of course he didn’t.  He first tried to act like he didn’t say anything or that it wasn’t directed at me, but after being confronted by someone else who heard it, he decided to say it was because I said something to him.

Me: I didn’t say anything to you!  I made a general statement aloud which is well within my right to do.

Him:  You said something to me!

Me:  I didn’t say nothing to you, but I am now (as I put the hat in my hand directly in his face).  Don’t you ever tell me to shut up.  My father doesn’t tell me to shut up.  I am a grown man.  I am not one of these little boys. Say it one more time.

Him: Silence

It was about then that the officials and site director made their way over to us and I reiterated to all three that nobody in that gym was qualified to tell me to shut up, period.  Especially a hot-headed, so-called coach that couldn’t stay with his former program because his attitude was messed up.  He can yell and scream at his players and tell them to shut up all he wants if his parents allow that, but not a chance in the world he or anyone else is telling me to do so.  The site director kept threatening to stop the game as if anybody cared about that at the time.  He also kept remarking how tired he was (again, who cares). The refs decided that a technical on both coaches was the answer (pointless) and that we must sit down for the duration.  It is safe to say I was fuming.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, it is my stance that telling me to shut up or calling me boy is not acceptable, ever.  We got right back into the game, then they fouled out my big fella.  You could tell the game got chippy and started getting worse because the refs were not controlling it.

With about 1:00 left, the smallest player on the court, Jacob Littles, was hit in the nose at half court by a blatant elbow from the opposing team…right in front of their bench and an official.  The official proceeded to do nothing.  No call. No stoppage.  No nothing.  Jacob staggered down to the court.  Meanwhile, the coach tells his player that he did nothing wrong.

That, as they say, was the end of my rope.  I draw the line at putting my kids in the line of fire for injury.  Especially when a “coach” is instructing his players that what they are doing is ok.  I got up, picked Jacob up off the floor, and pulled the rest of the players off as well.  There was no way I would let them continue playing under those circumstances.  I have to answer to their parents for their safety and will not take unnecessary chances where I can help it.  And you know what?  Yes I made the kids shake their opponents’ hand despite their reservation.  I know those other kids were influenced by their leader so it is not entirely their fault.  We were losing at the time and likely were going to lose the game, but that had no bearing on my decision.  I did the same thing last year at a tournament in Macomb County that we were winning.  Wins and losses are ultimately not the point of travel basketball and my goal is not to win at all cost.  One goal is to win, but do so the right way. 

I know this, unless tournament directors start holding officials responsible at travel basketball tournaments, things will only get worse.  There is absolutely no accountability and the main directors rarely travel to their tournament sites away from the hub more and more it seems.  I honestly have to take this into consideration when deciding where to take my teams to play.  The situation sped out of control because no one established order.  Should I have gotten in the coach’s face?  Probably not, but I also don’t regret it.  I do not pretend to be perfect.  I am a Christian man, but was a man first, so don’t tempt me with foolishness.  There are lines that are not meant to be crossed, that’s one of them.  I did not curse at him throughout.  I did not touch him.  But I did let him know in no uncertain terms that I am not his child.  Too often, perhaps because I am younger, these officials and such think that I must be based on how they talk.  I am not, and they will understand that in time.

Opinions Not Wanted?

Who really does?

Who really does?

It has been quite some time since I last posted here, but a situation has prompted a great deal of thought.  I wrote an editorial column about a basketball game for another site and didn’t think twice about sending it to the editor for publishing.  It is something I have been doing for years, so it was old hat at this point.  The article was posted, but then taken down the next day.  My editor gave me an explanation, but in my mind it was not acceptable.

Let me point out here that my editor and I are very close and that has not changed.  He explained to me that one of the coaches in the game was upset with something I wrote and he asked that it be taken down, he given an apology, or to not cover his team at all moving forward. He argued that the piece was “completely false” and irresponsible at best.  Fearing that he may not have read my piece thoroughly, the editor took it down to quell what backlash he saw coming.

After I got finished expressing to him that what was accused was indeed not true, he read it again.  He agreed that he could understand why the coach would be upset, but also see that it was blown out of proportion.  For the record, I told him I could see why he would be upset too and I was ok with that.  It was not re-posted, but nor was a retraction.  At that point it was agreed that he would agree to disagree with the coach and let it be. Well, at least that was my editor’s idea I believe. 

For me though, it was and is a matter of principle.  As a columnist, I report facts, but also factual-based opinions.  That’s why I took the column in the first place.  Much like this blog, no one will read it if there are wild inaccuracies and conjectures, but if they can see thought and processed ideas, even little ol’ me can have an opinion people may want to consider.  I love sports.  I love helping kids.  I love giving them exposure.  I also love to express a slant on things that many can’t.

I have been coaching for the better part of 21 years.  I am also a writer.  I have also been educated at one of the highest institutions of higher learning.  That is not said to brag, but rather to show the unique perspective.  Columnists have it hard though.  Even national ones get backlash from what they write in many cases, but a true columnist I think welcomes that.  That affords them more opportunity to explain their words.  Opinions to columnists are golden.  They are what drives a column in a nutshell.  But I find it amazing how many want to give you theirs without receiving yours. 

When I write, it is to inspire thought and hopefully discussion.  I am not looking for fans or people to “like” me.  I am expressing myself through written prose.  A coach that expresses a dissenting opinion was able to get my article removed.  Since then, an AD and a principal has also expressed “interest” or maybe “fear” that it would make someone or some people look bad or draw negative attention to their facility.  While I am not going to use this space to reposition the article, I will ask this; why is it such a big deal if the fact-based opinion of mine had no validity?  Even more so, why not read it first (I can tell that they did not based on what they said it contained)?  But even beyond that, why not realize that your own opinion isn’t the only one out there?  Every individual’s perception is their own reality.  Often, people’s perceptions coincide based on similar beliefs. But even then differences arise. 

So, what do you do?  Welcome a different, perhaps even more unbiased opinion than your own?  Maybe you fight against the idea that anyone would dare to challenge you.  Then again, you may choose to ignore anything that is not like yours.  You could attack the dissenting person.  You could attack whatever entity is connected that person.  You could do a whole bunch of stuff.  But the reality is people say they welcome another opinion, but that is often only when it matches their own.  Whatever you express, you should understand the possibility for rebuttal.  I do…How about you?

I See Your True Colors Shining Through

The wonderful thing about being the author of a personal blog is that there are very few restrictions to what you can comment about.  On the other hand, that is what also makes them have the potential to be dangerous as well.  What I am about to talk about may be a controversial subject to some, offensive to others, and maybe even thought-provoking to even more (that would certainly be most ideal).  In any case, I have carefully taken the time to not rush into these thoughts during a highly sensitive time we are in.  However, I feel I would be remiss if I do not share what is on my heart to.  So, without further delay, here we go.

As somewhat of a social media savant, I saw many things over the course of what can be described as a political battle for the presidency of the United States.  Some of these things chased me away from what I consider to be the two main forms of social media, Twitter and Facebook, for days at a time.  I had to remember that I am also a leader of young people so I needed to pay attention to the gist of what was going on, despite my disdain for it.  The more I thought about it as the weeks went by, the more I realized that the lack of depth in many people’s consideration of things is the very thing that has plagued this country for hundreds of years.  What I mean is if you break down the significant battles over religion, race, gender valuation, freedom, etc., they can be traced to the root cause of what I term “shallow-end thinking.” 

A swimming pool that has both a deep and shallow end is still but one pool, but has very different connotations.  Those that spend most of their time in the deep end are thought to be more skilled, experienced, and trained.  Consequently, they are more prepared for the depth of the water that particular end of the pool presents.  In opposing fashion, those that cannot dive into the deep end for fear of drowning are thought to be less skilled than their counterparts.  They look to the shallow end as a place of comfort; if they get scared for one reason or another, all they have to do is stand to recover.  People will drown in the shallow end (heck or even in a few inches of water in a bathtub) because carelessness often accompanies comfort.

In the months and weeks leading up to and even to this day, I see and hear many drawing the presidential race as one of black versus white, good versus evil, or rich versus poor.  All of those may describe in some aspect the race, but alone are far less than adequate to capture its entirety.  It was and is not as simple as black and white, but rather there is a broad spectrum of gray area covering this time.  I saw what I believe to be many people’s true colors, hence the title of this piece, and there were several other hues than the two.

I saw more red than ever before.  In fact, red used to be my favorite color until this time frame.  This red was one wrought with anger and wrath.  A crimson that made me ashamed of some of the things I heard and read.  There were those bold enough to recklessly use the n-word to describe the elected leader of this nation.  Many demonized, demeaned, and dishonored this man based solely on the perceived color of his skin.  Conversely, many American people of African descent took to the World Wide Web to declare their love for “our” president, with a great number reaching that conclusion based on the fact his skin tone was closer to their own.  I saw many posts like this one, “my president is BLACK.”  Or, “a black president is the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.”  “My” president?  As only about 13% of the population, clearly he had to be more than one ethnicity’s president to win.  I could go on and on, but they are generally variations of the same theme, that is, proclamations of a person’s ability to relate to another because of their pigmentation.  I find both sides of this to be dead wrong.  We know that it is wrong to refer to anyone as the “n-word” and were mad when Americans of European descent did so in total disrespect, but then some so-called black people used it as a term of endearment for “our” guy.  We spoofed the president as 2 Chainz, a secret agent, the next MLK Jr. or Malcolm X etc., the whole time having a total disregard for his mother’s heritage as an American with primarily English descent.  Does she not count?  Considering he has hailed her as the primary influence of his foundational upbringing, shouldn’t she be more prominent?  I guess saying “my president is half black” didn’t have the same ring to it.  The fact is that none of us are black or white.  We have taken these terms meant to demean and adapted them as proper terms.  The skin has 3 main layers; the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous tissue.  Even further, the epidermis has 5 layers and the dermis 2 of its own.  The element of the skin that causes pigment, melanin, is ONLY found in the basal layer of the epidermis.  So, out of those potential 8 layers, only one has the chemical that creates skin tone, but that is what so many spend so much time focused on.  47% became a theme of the election, but no one talked about the 12.5% (pigment layers to non-pigment layers of skin) that much of the attention was given to.

Do not misunderstand me here; I understand that culture is important, but I contend skin tone does not govern culture.  There are those that will argue that the American of European descent did not believe that way when they enslaved so many over the years and I would certainly agree, but then those wronged then cannot perpetuate the same shallow-end thinking that caused their heritage so much grief can they?  Think about it this way, if a large number of people had risen up if Romney had won and said, “My president is white!”  Or, “I voted for Romney because he was white!”  People of African descent everywhere would have been calling them racists and bigots, but yet that is exactly what I saw in reverse.  There can be justifications of being proud made, but they don’t hold water to me.  Where is the celebration of a man having the wherewithal to win such a huge race regardless of what he looks like?  MLK Jr.’s dream was not fulfilled in President Obama winning in 2008 or again in 2012, his dream was fulfilled in that he had an equivalent opportunity to do so.  He certainly would not have wanted it to cause divides between friends, fights among co-workers, and verbal spats on a computer.  That is directly against what he stood for as he marched and taught.  That red anger displayed from both sides during and after the race was not initiated by the principle of what is right, but rather an engrained shallow-end thought process.

That leads right into the envious green that was clearly evident.  Envy is simply a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.  There are those people whose very countenance shifted just because they couldn’t have “their” way without realizing the obvious point that the two main political parties that have been forced on us are much more alike than different.  We are duped into believing that there is a real true choice in the matter and that creates animosity toward others.  Think about this, there are approx. 312,000,000 people in this great nation, yet you had only two legitimate choices to run it (sorry, Roseanne was not going to win).  That is .00000064% of the country having a chance to be its leader.  That’s a choice?  I hardly think so.  The political process has been tailored from its inception and has narrowed to the two parties it is today.  Instead of looking just beneath the surface of something, we again show the fear of the deep end and stick to what we know for comfort.  There is no reason for anyone to be envious of having to make that “choice.”  Wait a minute; did I mention that the popular vote does not determine the winner so the misnomer that every vote counts is just that, a misnomer?  In fact, at the time when the election was called by pundits on the various news channels, the winner was trailing in the popular vote.  What if you voted for the Tea Party or cast a write in vote?  Did it count as well?  Sure it counted in that you exercised your right, but to think it made a difference in the grand scheme of things is steeped in fantasy.

The final color I saw was the cowardice of yellow.  People running to hide behind internet posts, usernames, pictures, and pseudonyms as they spewed at best ignorant rhetoric and at worst hate.  There were those feigning some greater good message in order to simply get out lingering feelings kept inside.  I saw those professing to be of faith afraid to confront issues directly related to faith by trying to separate something that was not ever meant to be separate.  Trust me, I get that the vote was for a president and not a religious leader, but we all have to realize that the leader of every country sets the political and religious tone for that country.  Also, if it were the case that the two should not be intertwined, why were there local and national religious leaders using their influence among people to try to affect the direction of the vote? 

The fact is that the church as we know it is in some trouble.  Look beyond the surface my good people.  Soon it will likely be illegal for churches to speak out against behaviors they do not endorse or believe in.  Many are already in big financial strains as banks are telling them “the president” is requiring re-submitting of mortgage loan paperwork as they gouge churches for 2-3 times what their property is worth.  That can and will cause the leaders of those churches to seek more money from its people to survive, which in turn will cause the people to feel the strain in tune with their own economic struggles.  They will likely feel guilt for being unable to help or turned off as the idea of churches leeching from the people is perpetuated even more across the country.  It is feasible that a church’s non-profit status will be used against them for governmental control.  They may be forced to support financially things that violate their very principles of belief or risk governmental intervention.  President Obama was correct when he said America is no longer “a Christian nation.”

Under the surface, what are some things that we can also look at?  Well, I will offer them in the form of rhetorical questions.  What if the regime of President Obama is the fulfillment of the dream of one Margaret Sanger, who vowed to use the most educated and beautiful people of color to further belief in eugenics as stated in the infamous Jaffe memo and various other words she spoke?  What if our fascination with black and white causes a repeat of the racial wars that existed in the past?  What if the promise of increased taxes causes business owners to sacrifice people in preparation?  What if the promise of reduced insurance costs causes companies to raise it in the interim so that those rates can be grandfathered in?  What if we realize God told us to pray, but didn’t say that was all he told us?  What if the church actually left the upper room and got out into the world and realized its collective power?  What if we realize that although times have changed, principles don’t?  What if we comparatively looked at the past 20 years and realized we were better as a society then?

I could go on, but the point is simple; shallow-end thinking leads to more trouble and hostility than just taking some time to look at the bigger picture through the eyes of faith…try it, I dare you.

My article posted on GLH…

Great Lakes Hoops

By Marcellus Miller

On August 3-4, 2012, I had an opportunity to be involved with a camp specially designed for young men ages 3-18 right here in the city of Flint.  You say you didn’t hear about it?  That figures because it was not sponsored by one of our local athletes nor did it fit the bill of the “normal” Flint negative newsworthy material.  What it did though was give 61 young men a chance to learn and grow physically and mentally over the course of a couple days.

Kingdom of Heaven Ministries (KHM located on G-3196 W. Pasadena Ave. on Flint’s north side) hosted the camp for the group they dubbed yM.O.V.E. (Young Men of Valor and Excellence), a spin off from their men’s group M.O.V.E. (Men of Valor and Excellence). The idea was initiated by Pastor/Founder Lonnie W. Brown as a tool to reach the underserved demographic of…

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Coaching Pressure: Ramped up to Never Before Seen Levels

Right now there is so much weighing heavy on my mind.  But at the forefront is one in particular.

Coaching….yes, coaching.

I am not talking “new” Flint city coaches Lamont Torbert (NW) and Garner Pleasant (Northern).  Nor am I speaking of Nate Brown (SWA girls), Jeff Whitely (NW girls), or Shalana Taylor (Northern girls).  What has really got my mind moving is a number of old coaches that is making it incredibly more difficult to be a coach in this day and age.  I am talking about Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine, Robert Dodd, and Graham James.

I know the last two names may not have rung many bells, but let me introduce you to them.  James was arrested and convicted in 1997 of sexual abuse as it related to young boys the Canadian junior hockey leagues, including former NHL players, Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy, hundreds of times over seven years.  What was his penalty? 3.5 years in prison.

Robert “Bobby” Dodd is the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) president/CEO who was also a former coach now accused by at least 2 men of molesting then as adolescents.  One of the men, Ralph West, was featured on an “Outside the Lines” show on ESPN and said that Dodd would sneak into his room at night on road trips to tournaments.

Bernie Fine is the now ex-assistant coach at Syracuse University for the men’s basketball team.  His accusers (one even has a taped phone conversation allegedly with Fine’s wife) are former ball boys who for some strange reason were taken along on road trips with the team and allege Mr. Fine molested them as kids.  Some of the alleged molestations took place at his home and some on those road trips in hotel rooms. Although the statute of limitations has passed on his crimes, the accusers are now suing the university and more specifically the head coach (Jim Boeheim) for defamation of character when they released the accusations publicly and he came out on the defense of his long time assistant and friend (He has since apologized for his statements).

Finally, Jerry Sandusky is the former Penn State University assistant football coach that is accused of not only molesting young boys on the college campus by using his influence as a coach, but also the influence gained by his foundation for underprivileged young men by luring them into situations that they were vulnerable to his predatory advances.  He was observed by a fellow member of the coaching staff in the shower with a young boy. His story is the reason why some of these other victims even have the confidence to speak out and tell the world what is an embarrassing story to most.  Right he faces a trial with various counts of illegal sexual acts that can land him in prison for the rest of his days.

I will spare you all with any more details and most have heard them anyway, but the point is that all of these examples have made an already difficult job even harder.  Coaching youth is far more than drawing up plays and blowing a whistle in practice (at least for real coaches).  What many people don’t know is that statistics show that the second most influential people in kids’ lives according to them are their coaches.  During the sports’ seasons, you often spend more time with the team and coach than with many members of your own family.  A true coach is a teacher first, before a technician of X’s and O’s.  Many youth that may not have strong males in their lives may look to that male coach as a role model and confidant.  While coaching at Flint Northern, I once had a player tell me that I was the only male role model he had…the only one.  That is a huge statement and even bigger responsibility for any person to have, let alone a coach.

There used to be a time where I coached young ladies and was warned many times to be very careful about the way I talked, responded to, and acted towards them.  One accusation can ruin a career and worse, a reputation.  I made it a point to have a good relationship with all of their parents and was open, honest, and upfront right from the beginning and even still one can never be too careful.  In fact, interaction between a male coach and a female player cost one of my coaching brethren in the area not too long ago.  During that time that was all the warnings we would get regarding coaching relationships.

Now it is a new day and coaching young men brings about the same warnings.  The unenviable task of gaining the trust of your players is made much more difficult by the walls they will build to help protect themselves.  Parents put their complete faith in coaches as they take their children all over the road to different locations and that trust may now come into greater question.  Don’t get me wrong, parents should be trying to get to know the coach before just letting a child go with them out of town anywhere.  It is a responsibility that I have always taken very seriously, especially after I started coaching on the AAU circuit.  I have had some summers where I never even seen a parent of some kids even once from March-July.  Then I have had years like this one where my parents were so involved that it was just a beautiful thing.  I have been fortunate to communicate with many of the parents throughout the year so the summer became just like old times.

For the life of me I cannot understand what a grown man finds attractive in a little boy or any little kid for that matter.  It is a sick, twisted, and disgusting idea and that makes it very difficult to talk about for victims and even for me as I write this article.  That said, it is fortunate that it has gotten so much attention so that those who have fallen prey to these criminals can and will come forward to expose them.  It is the best way to prevent them from hurting any other children and ultimately adults as those kids fight to eliminate the emotional damage their ordeals had on them as they grow up.

What I do know is this; the job of coaching is not for the faint at heart.  It is harder than it has ever been, but it is also more important than ever before.  True coaches serve as teachers, role models, leaders, father/mother figures, and even confidants and they frankly have not gotten the recognition for handling such difficult tasks as they deserve.  The problem today is that we have so many pseudo coaches in these important positions that are distorting what it really means.  So many of them do it for themselves and care little about the kids they are coaching.  The acts mentioned above are extreme examples of that selfishness.  Anytime a coach will do something to purposely hurt a kid to promote themselves, they don’t deserve to be there in that spot.  I’ve heard of coaches that gave minors alcohol on road trips and kept them out all times of the night.  Our jobs as coaches are tough enough without the added pressure of having to defeat the ideals set in place by these frauds.  I feel it is more important now than ever for the true coaches such as myself to stay in the game as much as possible.  Those in control of hiring really need to consider history more and more as well.   It is a shame to see any kid damaged by what is supposed to be a person that helps them grow.  Expose the bad ones so the good ones can rise to the top.

It Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3…

After hearing someone describe what they thought the best moments in life were, I put some thought into it myself.  Many things ran through my mind that could be included, but nothing seemed quite right or simple enough. Then one day I was on a phone call and three things came to me as clear as day.  In fact, I interrupted the phone call to inform the person I was talking to about my epiphany (not that they cared at the time).  They were simple, straight-forward, and covered each facet of life.  Now I will share them with you.

  1. When you are BORN (the beginning of life)
  2. When you are BORN AGAIN (the securing of your future life)
  3. When you seek God and He reveals why you were BORN in the first place (the discovery of your purpose in life)

Even as I look back on them now, I say “wow” to myself.  Each of the most significant moments in life have to do with some aspect of birth.  I heard someone say that one of them was when you discovered why you were born.  Notice that I didn’t say that.  The only true way to know your purpose is for your Creator to tell you.  How could a chair know it was a chair, except that the maker of that chair let it be known?  One man may sit in it.  One may use it as a step stool to reach a light bulb.  One may use it as a footstool to prop his feet up.  There are numerous other ways that chair can be used, but it was created for but one purpose and only the one who created it truly knows.  If we depend on ourselves to find our purpose we may do a lot of good things, but may never be truly fulfilled.  A book may work as a table leveler, a straight-edge to draw a line, or a booster seat for a child to sit at the table.  But if that book is never opened and read, then the purpose for that author writing it will never be known.

The significance of being born is a simple one to understand; it is what gets you here to this earth.  It starts the clock ticking on your span of time to impact the world.  Being born again by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior starts the clock on you getting to your eternal life in paradise.  It is the most secure investment you can ever make.  It has never had a negative ROI (return on investment).  Its shareholders receive a dividend all of the time.  It is the key to unlocking the door to the discovery of purpose mentioned above.  Without it, your happiness and rewards will only be temporary and short-lived.

I said all of that to really get to this point, that is, that finding out why we are here is the key to ending much of the chaos that surrounds this life.  I look around at the young people and they are walking around trying to “find themselves” at school, in gangs, with a boy, with a girl, from the teacher, from the coach, from each other, and from a society that is attempting to make them accept any behavior as good.  They are so lost that they will try anything just to “see”.  How crazy is that?  I cannot tell how many times I have asked a young person why they did something and they had no answer or just said it was “something to do.”  I can tell you this much, there are plenty of things that I do not need to experience to know they are not for me.  I don’t need to try alcohol, drugs, getting shot, experiencing an earthquake, etc. But somehow we have allowed the idea of testing the waters to permeate throughout this generation.  Society says it is ok to try things out to find yourself, but I say we need to show them the answers in God so He can tell them.

I am proud to say that I don’t even know what alcohol tastes like or what smoking anything feels like at all.  I don’t say that to brag in any way, but rather to point out that I had people around me who showed me how to pursue finding my purpose.  Ergo, when I got to campus on my own for the first time in college, the temptation to smoke and drink didn’t bother me.  I already knew that those things would tear me away from what I needed to be doing.  I already knew who I was.  When people would tell me that I seemed different and ask why, that is what I would tell them.  I challenged them many times as well saying that if they could give me just one good reason to deviate from that purpose and join them, then I would.  As I mentioned before, I never have so clearly I was never given a good reason.

We have got to get a handle on the youth by showing them how to find their true purpose.  It is not to have babies out-of-wedlock.  It is not to try to be intimate with every girl you can.  It is not to be the baddest guy on the block and show how bad you are by killing.  It is not being satisfied with just being mediocre.  No, it is much more than that, but we need to first know our purpose ourselves.  Have you sought out God for your own and then started operating in it?  If not, it is time so that we can turn this thing around, especially in our inner city communities around the world.  It is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

Evidence to the Contrary

It has been a while since I last entered words into the forum, but I determined when I started it that I would only do so when I really had something to say…now I believe that I do.

For those who don’t know, I have been coaching basketball on some level since I was 14-years-old.  That in and of itself brings with it a certain level of scrutiny that I have grown accustomed to.  I was a kid (albeit a mature one) coaching kids.  As I have grown into the man I am today, I have learned that being involved in the coaching arena still brings about a certain degree of opinions from people, good and bad.  As much as I believe things have changed in this country and more specifically in this great state of Michigan, I seemingly often find myself face-to-face with evidence to the contrary.  Here is the latest of such evidence…

Last year I took my team to a tournament in Bel Air, MI (aka WAAAYYYY up north) and felt like we got mistreated pretty badly.  This year, the tournament was moved to Mt. Pleasant and so we went again trusting that things would be different.  Well, it certainly was…to a point.  Before I get too far into it though let me tell you the make up of my team.  I am an American male of African descent (AA), while my assistant is an American male of European descent (AE).  The team is composed of a ratio of 6:8 (AA:AE), and also one young American of Asian descent (AAS).  I know that some of you are wondering why I used those terms.  Well, mostly because they are far more accurate than the more common terms used today.

Anyway, we won our first two contests and were moving to play for the top seed in the pool.  We were up against a team we had lost to a couple of times the prior year (TEAM Basketball Red), so we knew that they were pretty good.  The game was intense from the start and not 2 minutes into it, there were some hard fouls from both teams.  It’s basketball, it happens.  But a couple of minutes later, things became too rough.  My best player drove to the basket, jumped to fake the shot, then passed the ball out to the wing where another player shot a 3-pointer and scored.  I was pumped about the shot (those who knew my team from last summer would know that we had no pure shooters) and my fist pump told that well.  Then my attention was trained back under the basket where the passer was now being pushed back down to the floor.  The officials saw this and blew their whistles, but made little other response to stop an escalating situation.  So, I sprinted from my bench and grabbed my player by his shoulders to escort him off  of the court.  That should have ended everything, right?

Nope…on my way to the bench with my guy, the opposing coach turned and yelled out to me to “go and sit my a** down!”  What?  Yes, I stopped dead in my tracks, spun around and yelled, “what did you say?”  Of course I knew exactly what he said, but I was wondering why he said it to me.  So, since now all of a sudden he couldn’t speak, I moved closer to him to say my question again and get an answer of why he thought he could talk me like that.  The next action then told me exactly why…

A parent of a member of their team (who later was discovered to be a police officer in the city of Holly and was wearing a Holly basketball sweatshirt) jumped up out of his seat in the stands and came onto the floor saying, “yeah, go sit down boy!”  Boy?  Did he have any idea who he was talking to?  So I asked him exactly that as I now turned my attention, my glare, and my stride toward him.  It was about then I felt two arms wrap around me and push me backward.  One of my kids’ parents had intervened on his behalf stopping me short of reaching him as my final destination.  I could not even believe I would be called that by an older AE in 2011.  Surely by this year, he should know what negative connotations that has.  Even further, he was talking to a grown man, so that shouldn’t have even been a thought….but it was.

So, they went and got another official, called technicals on both initial kids that faced off and the game continued.  I of course emphasized to my players to only use what happened as fuel and they did just that.  We scored several consecutive baskets, prompting a time out from the other team.  But just like most sophomores do, my boys let the other team back in the game.  They also complained to me of being tripped by the opposition purposely.  As I paid more attention, I saw the joy from the bench whenever it did happen and it was quite often.  I mean this is not soccer where you use your feet to kick the ball so clipping is a natural occurrence.  This is basketball and it happened way more than it should’ve.  But as a coach I told my guys to play through it.

That was all well and good until with right about 6 minutes left to play, the same player that was pushed down before got clipped and hit in the face on his way to the basket.  This time, however, not only was a foul not called, but he also now had blood rushing from his lip.  He had to sit out until it could be stopped.  In the meantime the opposing team came back and closed the gap to one point and it stayed that way until there were 7.7 seconds left.  We were taking the ball out and they were trying to get a steal or foul.  As one of my guys broke for the ball (right in front of the official), the guy guarding him grabbed his jersey, pulling it out from his shorts and pulling him down in the process.  No call as the pass was made and the ball bounced helplessly out-of-bounds.  now in shock, my boys let them get off a wide open jumper at the buzzer to win.  By then the tournament director was there and I walked up to him and said you need to do something about this coach and parent.

He didn’t…and we would meet again.  4 hours later that same team lost by 1 at the buzzer to a different team (poetic justice).  We were up next and were slated to take that same bench.  Their players decided not to leave the bench when my guys arrived.  Two of the players went toe-to-toe and one of my parents (a mom) jumped in to stop it.  She proceeded to get cursed out by this kid and then the same terrible example of a police officer from before.  That is when I saw the group forming and arrived on the scene.  the coach of the team we were slated to play then got my attention and said please put a stop to this before I jump in.  He couldn’t stand for a woman to be disrespected like that.  I asked what was going on and as I did one of their players again flew off in a profanity-laced tirade. No parent/coach said anything to him from their side.  One of my parents asked their coach “is this not one of your players?  Are you not going to say anything to him?”  he got no answer from the coach at all.  As I am being told the whole story by the parents I ask was it that same parent from before that almost got jumped on while I was pointing directly at him.  He said, “You wanna take this outside?”  I said, “Ok,” and headed for the door.  Once again, my parents reminded me that I had a game to coach and would need to do that, so I did.  But the challenge was amazing to me.  Where do they still challenge people to go outside at?  Clearly in Mt, Pleasant via Holly. 

We won that game and my boys played great.  I have never been so proud of a team’s ability to focus as I was of theirs.  Unfortunately, during practice the next week I had to sit them down and explain the whole scenario to them and what being called a “boy” means in the grand scheme of things.  Some had no idea of these things so it needed to be taught.  I let them know that I certainly could have shown more restraint, but showed much by not jumping down this man’s throat.  I am a proud man.  I am also a Christian.  But I was a man first and sometimes he jumps out ahead of the Christian in instances like this.  That shouldn’t happen, but it did.  They needed to know why and more importantly, they needed to know that we may see the same type of taunting again. 

If you have read my previous posts, you will know that this is not the first time a discriminatory term has been used toward me.  It almost seems like God is placing these tests there for me to show everyone that, as my dad reminded me, it is not what people call you that defines who you are, but rather what you answer to.  I responded to the term “boy”, but will never answer to it.   It is the furthest thing from a definition of me.  As I turn a year older in a matter of hours, I realize even still that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I start to believe things are different, and then I see evidence to the contrary…

But then I also realize that I have a major role in escorting change in…God let me know that and it continues with my book, “Four Seasons of Verse” and even further with the book signing at my”Chance of a Lifetime” showcase and program on June 12.  It will be a call for community activism in our area.  I will post more detail soon, but get ready. That is, if you want change….